So this morning I was interviewed by a PhD student interested in what people with the Near Neighbours funding have been doing (quick plug: Really interesting stuff, and his blog is definitely worth following too…)
Chatting with him gave me the much needed time to reflect and think about what we have achieved so far, and also how ToastLoveCoffee is part of my own story and what it means to me.
I have written before about my Jewish identity, specifically my sense that ToastLoveCoffee is (after years of struggling) my way to best honour the memory of the Holocaust; to create a space where we can be ourselves and meet others as themselves, and however ‘different’ we may be, we can find commonality (is that even a word?!) and therefore challenge everything the Nazis stood for, and the German democracy who voted them in.
What I didn’t realise until this morning, was that we need to change the culture of language so radically to ensure that actually, difference is something to be celebrated and aspired towards, rather than something to overcome:
I am different on a Wednesday morning (ToastLoveCoffee) to a Thursday afternoon (carting my kids from school to after school tennis lessons). I have an opinion about Israel one day, then read an article, or meet somebody and hear their story, and I have a different opinion as a result. It is this very human condition that we are able to change and be different, and therefore recognise that in others too, that should be celebrated and nurtured.
There are a few regulars who come to TLC now, and I have to admit that when they first rocked up, I did not immediately warm to them. I guess I had my own prejudices, and also accepted that it is OK to naturally find some people harder to connect with than others. But this week, something amazing happened. The teenage girl who moodily accompanies her mother and grunts or makes sarcastic comments if I try to talk with her, this week smiled and asked for some more toast please. It – a whole sentence with ‘please’! – was a minor miracle as far as I was concerned.
As I put more toast in the toaster, I was so excited at this development and the opportunities for the future in the conversations I could have with her, and maybe give her a little attention, a little mentoring, support, direction, contact… to take her life forward in a positive direction.
It reminded me of the lines in Disney Frozen’s Fixer Upper song (the cheesy Disney softie side of me for sure!):
“We aren’t saying you can change him
‘Cause people don’t really change
We’re only saying that love’s a force that’s powerful and strange
People make bad choices if they’re mad or scared or stressed
But throw a little love their way, and you’ll bring out their best
True love brings out the best”
So. Throw a little love, or in my case, toast, love and coffee, their way and you’ll bring out the best… Now if anyone writes that in their manifesto in the forthcoming elections, you’ll have my vote for sure…